Photos reveal devastating impact as more than 125 killed by floods in Europe - 'Warnings not taken seriously'

·6-min read
Damage caused by the flooding in Erftstadt, Germany. (AP)
Arial photo of the devastation caused by the flooding in Erftstadt, Germany. (AP)

Over 120 people have died after floods swept through northwest Europe following heavy rainfall, devastating communities in Germany and Belgium.

The number of people who have died in the floods in the western part of Germany had risen to more than 100 by Friday afternoon. 

More than 1,000 people were missing in the Neuenahr-Ahrweiler region, Koblenz police have reportedly said and entire communities have been completely ruined.

A damaged car, washed away by flood waters sits on some debris in a street in the town of Ahrweiler-Bad Neuenahr on July 15, 2021. - Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 45 people in Germany and left around 50 missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Cars were washed away in the floods and left perched on debris in the town of Ahrweiler-Bad Neuenahr. (Getty)
An aerial view shows people as they inspect the emptying of the damaged Steinbach hydrolic dam in Euskirchen, western Germany, on July 16, 2021, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding. - The death toll from devastating floods in Europe soared to at least 126 on July 16, most in western Germany where emergency responders were frantically searching for missing people. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)
The damaged Steinbach hydrolic dam in Euskirchen, western Germany, after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding (SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An aerial view taken on July 15, 2021 shows a bridge damaged by trunks following heavy rains and flood in Echtershausen, near Bitburg, western Germany. - Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 59 people in Germany and eight in Belgium, and many more people are missing as rising waters caused several houses to collapse on July 15, 2021. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)
Debris including tree trunks have damaged roads and bridges after being swept away in the flooding. (Getty)

Record rainfall across western Europe saw the floods sweep through towns and villages, leaving people stranded, destroying homes, and washing cars down streets.

The floods have caused Germany's worst loss of life in years and have also hit other countries, including Belgium, where 11 deaths have been reported.

Residents look at debris in the muddy streets, following flood waters in a street in the town of Ahrweiler-Bad Neuenahr, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. - Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 45 people in Germany and left around 50 missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Hundreds of people have been left missing and the death toll continues to rise in Germany. (Getty)
People pass by the trunk of a tree that had fallen onto a passage which was damaged following heavy rains and flood in Echtershausen, near Bitburg, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. - Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 59 people in Germany and eight in Belgium, and many more people are missing as rising waters caused several houses to collapse on July 15, 2021. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)
The flooding comes after heavy rainfall lashed western Europe. (Getty)

Some 15,000 police, soldiers and emergency service workers have been deployed in Germany to help with the search and rescue.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the devastation caused by the flooding and pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.

“In the hour of need, our country stands together,” Steinmeier said in a statement. “It’s important that we show solidarity for those from whom the flood has taken everything.”

Hundreds of soldiers used tanks to clear roads of landslides and fallen trees, while helicopters helped winch people to safety.

a bicycle is seen under the water from Rhine river in Cologne, Germany on July 15, 2021 as NRW experienced flooding after large amount of rain fell (Photo by Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Rhine river in Cologne, Germany, flooded, engulfing bikes and cars. (Getty)

A harrowing rescue effort unfolded In the German town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where people were trapped when the ground gave way and their homes collapsed.

“We managed to get 50 people out of their houses last night,” county administrator Frank Rock told German broadcaster n-tv.

Aerial photos showed what appeared to be a massive landslide at a gravel pit on the town’s edge..

“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,” Rock said.

Authorities were trying to account for hundreds of people listed as missing, but they cautioned that the high number could be due to duplicated reports and difficulties reaching people because of disrupted roads and phone service.

RHINELAND PALATINATE, GERMANY - JULY 15: A view of flooded area and damage after severe rainstorm and flash floods hit western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany on July 15, 2021. The death toll in Germany's worst flood in more than 200 years rose to at least 42 as dozens of people remain missing. Search and rescue works continue in the area. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Western German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were hard hit by the flooding. (Getty)

The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, who is hoping to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as the nation’s leader after Germany’s election in September said the disaster had caused immense economic damage to the country’s most densely populated state.

“The floods have literally pulled the ground from beneath many people’s feet,” Gov. Armin Laschet said at a news conference. “They lost their houses, farms or businesses.”

Federal and state officials have pledged financial aid to the affect areas, which also includes the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where at least 60 people died and entire villages were destroyed.

Watch: Fears death toll will rise as officials warn dam will burst

The unprecedented rainfall has been blamed on global climate change by both weather experts and local politicians.

After Germany, where more than 100 people have died, Belgium was the hardest hit by the floods that caused homes to be ripped away. Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network Friday that the country’s official confirmed death toll had grown to 20, with 20 other people still missing.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has declared 20 July a national day of mourning.

"We are still waiting for the final toll, but this could be the most catastrophic flooding our country has ever seen," he said.

LIEGE, BELGIUM - JULY 15: A damaged car is seen at the flooded site after heavy rain hit Oesival town in province of Liege, Belgium on July 15, 2021. Number of people who lost their lives due to floods caused by the rains that lasted for a few days in the country rose to 6. Because of the heavy rains, a state of emergency was declared in cities such as Liege, Verviers and Spa. In Liege, authorities asked those who do not live in the city to leave the area. Residents near the Meuse River were asked to climb to higher floors. River water level is expected to rise 1.5 meters (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Lives were also lost in Belgium, where floods ravaged towns including Oesival. (Getty)
A picture taken on July 15, 2021, shows a flooded street in the Belgian city of Verviers, near Liege, after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe. - The provincial disaster plan has been declared in Liege, Luxembourg and Namur provinces after large amounts of rainfall. Water in several rivers has reached alarming levels. - Belgium OUT (Photo by ANTHONY DEHEZ / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT (Photo by ANTHONY DEHEZ/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)
Streets were left under water in the Belgian city of Verviers, near Liege after water levels rose. (Getty)

Dr Liz Stephens, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Reading, said: "The flooding in Europe is a sobering demonstration of how even the most developed countries are not prepared for the impacts of climate change.

"Intense summer rainfall events are expected to occur more frequently under climate change, and national and local governments need to wake up to the danger and make sure that appropriate measures are taken to avoid the unacceptable number of fatalities that have been reported from this event.

"The floods in London earlier this week provide a warning that we are not immune to these kinds of flood impacts in the UK and should learn our own lessons from this disaster."

LIEGE, BELGIUM - JULY 15: People with their belongings leave the flooded site after heavy rain hit Oesival town in province of Liege, Belgium on July 15, 2021. Number of people who lost their lives due to floods caused by the rains that lasted for a few days in the country rose to 6. Because of the heavy rains, a state of emergency was declared in cities such as Liege, Verviers and Spa. In Liege, authorities asked those who do not live in the city to leave the area. Residents near the Meuse River were asked to climb to higher floors. River water level is expected to rise 1.5 meters (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
People were forced to flee their homes with their belongings in Belgium so they could get to safety as floodwaters rose. (Getty)
Illustration shows  the flooded streets in Verviers after heavy rainfall, Thursday 15 July 2021. The provincial disaster plan has been declared in Liege, Luxembourg and Namur provinces after large amounts of rainfall. Water in several rivers has reached alarming levels.
BELGA PHOTO ANTHONY DEHEZ (Photo by ANTHONY DEHEZ/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
A provincial disaster plan was declared in Liege, Luxembourg and Namur provinces after large amounts of rainfall in the area. (Getty)
A house is submerged by water near the Dender river during floods near Geraardsbergen January 13, 2011. Several rivers burst their banks due to heavy rain flooding several towns and villages in Belgium, local media reported.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir    (BELGIUM - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)
Houses were left submerged near the Dender river during floods near Geraardsbergen in Belgium. (Reuters)

As the water started to recede, stunned residents in the worst affected towns inspected what was left of their homes and neighbourhoods.

In the German town of Schuld, houses were reduced to piles of debris and broken beams. Roads were blocked by wreckage and fallen trees and fish flapped and gasped on puddles of water in the middle of the street.

A rescue effort was underway at the end of the week, with the military joining residents in the clean-up operation.

People walk past rubble in a street devastated by the floods in Euskirchen, western Germany, on July 16, 2021. - The death toll from devastating floods in Europe soared to at least 93, most of them in western Germany, where emergency responders were searching for hundreds of missing people. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)
Rubble was left in the street in Euskirchen, western Germany, as emergency responders continued to search for hundreds of missing people. (Getty)
RHINELAND PALATINATE, GERMANY - JULY 15: A view of flooded area and damage after severe rainstorm and flash floods hit western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany on July 15, 2021. The death toll in Germany's worst flood in more than 200 years rose to at least 42 as dozens of people remain missing. Search and rescue works continue in the area. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Soldiers have been helping in the search and rescue effort. (Getty)
A resident reacts in front of damaged furnitures following heavy rains and floods in Ahrweiler-Bad Neenah, western Germany, on July 15, 2021. - German authorities said late July 15, 2021 that at least 58 people had likely died in massive storms and flooding in the country's west, an increase on the earlier toll of 45 dead. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Businesses have been left ruined by the flooding. (Getty)

Professor Hannah Cloke OBE, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, added: "The deaths and destruction across Europe as a result of flooding is a tragedy that should have been avoided.

"For so many people to die in floods in Europe in 2021 represents a monumental failure of the system. The sight of people driving or wading through deep floodwater fills me with horror, as this is about the most dangerous thing you can do in a flood.

"Forecasters could see this heavy rain coming and issued alerts early in the week, and yet the warnings were not taken seriously enough and preparations were inadequate.

"These kind of high-energy, sudden summer torrents of rain are exactly what we expect in our rapidly heating climate.

"The fact that other parts of the northern hemisphere are currently suffering record-breaking heatwaves and fires should serve as a reminder of just much more dangerous our weather could become in an ever-warmer world."

Watch: Floodwaters surge through German town as death toll rises

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